According to a new study, women have a lower ‘normal’ blood pressure range than men. Investigators also found that women had a lower blood pressure threshold than men for risk of each specific cardiovascular disease type, including heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.
According to a new study, women have a lower ‘normal’ blood pressure range than men. “This may be harmful to a woman’s health,” said Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, MMSc, associate professor of Cardiology and director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute and senior author of the study. “Based on our findings, we urge that the medical community reconsider blood pressure standards that do not take gender variations into consideration.”
The first number in a blood pressure reading is called systolic pressure and measures the force of the blood against the artery walls as your heart beats. The second number is the diastolic pressure, the blood pressure against the artery walls between heartbeats.
For years, 120 mmHg has been considered the normal upper limit for systolic blood pressure in adults. Persistent elevations above this limit amount to hypertension-which is well known as the key risk factor for common cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. In their newest study, Cheng and her research team examined blood pressure measurements conducted across four community-based cohort studies, comprising more than 27,000 participants, 54% of whom were women.
In doing so, the research team identified that while 120 mmHg was the threshold of risk in men, 110 mmHg or lower was the threshold of risk in women. Systolic blood pressure levels that were higher than these thresholds were associated with risk for developing any type of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, heart failure and strokes.
Investigators also found that women had a lower blood pressure threshold than men for risk of each specific cardiovascular disease type, including heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.
“We are now pushed to rethink what we thought was a normal blood pressure that might keep a woman or a man safe from developing heart disease or stroke,” added Cheng, who also serves as director of Cardiovascular Population Sciences at the Barbra Streisand men”Women’s Cardiovascular Health and Population Science.
These findings build on past research led by Cheng suggesting women’s blood vessels age faster than men’s. Cheng’s research, published last year, confirmed that women have different biology and physiology than men and also explained why women may be more susceptible of developing certain types of cardiovascular disease and at different points in life.
With both the 2020 study and in their latest work, Cheng and her team compared women to women and men to men, rather than the common model of comparing women to men.
“If the ideal physiologic range of blood pressure truly is lower for females than males, current approaches to using sex-agnostic targets for lowering elevated blood pressure need to be reassessed,” said Christine Albert, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute. “This important work is far-reaching and has numerous clinical implications.”